The Civil War

Lesson 2 


Slave Dance to Banjo 1780sAmericans used slaves for 200 years before California became a state. Slaves were needed to work on the cotton and tobacco plantations. The first black slaves had been brought to the Jamestown Colony in 1617 by the Dutch.

The Northeastern states made a great deal of money from slaves. Many slaves were taken to the West Indies and traded for molasses. The molasses was taken to New England and made into rum. Some New Englanders bought slaves to help with this.

After a time the North gave up their slaves. The climate and type of work in the North did not fit the African slaves as well as in the South. In 1790 the North had about 40,000 slaves while the South had about 650,000. By 1850 the number of slaves in the South had grown to more than 3,000,000. At this time the North had only about 250 slaves. The 1860 census showed that 32 percent of white families living in the states that would secede from the Union owned slaves. Families in some southern states, such as Arkansas with only 20% slave owners, owned way less than the average. Forty-six percent of South Carolina families owned slaves and 49 percent in Mississippi owned slaves.

Only three hundred and fifty thousand out of six million Southerners owned slaves. Fewer than two thousand of these Southerners had one hundred or more slaves. Most slave owners had four or less slaves.

Slaves were treated very differently from one plantation to the next. Some slaves worked inside the home. They cooked, cleaned, and cared for the children of the white family. Most slaves worked in the fields. They worked a long day from sunrise to after sunset. Some slaves worked in factories in big cities such as Atlanta and New Orleans.

These slaves were not paid for their work. Slaves lived in dirt-floored huts.


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